Here are some games and toys that are both challenging and fun. Kits that allow you to build contraptions provide opportunities for children to develop skills in following written instructions, as well as more complex concepts.
24 Game Primers
The 24 Game is is fun and challenging for children and adults alike. Sometimes you might even be able to find a local tournament. The goal of the original 24 Game is to come up with a combination of four numbers and any of the four operations that result in the number 24. For younger children, there are simpler games shown below, and for older kids, advanced concepts including fractions and decimals, negative numbers, and algebra.
Before kids are able to play the classic 24 Game, they can practice their facts using the primer versions, which limit the operations to addition/subtraction or multiplication/division. Once they have a good grasp of these basic operations, they can play the single-digit version before graduating to the Original 24 Game, both of which give ample opportunity to practice basic math facts in an engaging way.
- In addition to practicing basic facts, this game gives kids the opportunity to practice using the guess and check problem-solving strategy. At the most basic level, you make a guess (combine the numbers in some way) and you check (to see if it makes the desired result), and repeat. At a more sophisticated level, one might try combinations of numbers that are more likely to get you closer to the result. For example, if you are trying to get 24, and you have a bunch of small numbers, you might start by trying multiplying the largest of the small numbers to get you closer to 24.
Lego Chain Reactions
Kids can use the Lego Chain Reactions set to create contraptions that guide a marble down ramps. Build two contraptions and they can get a race going.
- Give children an early exposure to angles by asking them to consider how the angle of the ramp affects the speed of the marble.
- You may need to demonstrate how to play with this kit, either by showing them how to follow the directions in this kit.
- You can also demonstrate thought processes about how to build "better" contraptions.
For STEM-oriented kids (and parents), Snap Circuits provide an opportunity to build working circuits by snapping together child-friendly components. The various experiments included with each kit introduce kids to concepts in electronics. The mathematics of this will be learned much later, but exposing children to these ideas will make these concepts more accessible when they learn it in high school.
Tip: You may need to demonstrate how to read and follow the instructions provided. Don't be afraid to model what you do when you get frustrated or what you may do to keep track of where you are in the directions.